UNF's #1 Student-Run News Source

UNF Spinnaker

UNF's #1 Student-Run News Source

UNF Spinnaker

UNF's #1 Student-Run News Source

UNF Spinnaker

Commentary: Navy treading on endangered waters

The smallest rabbit known to man, the pygmy rabbit, could fit in the palm of a hand – its fluffy fur and big floppy ears balled together to form one adorable little bunny.

Not only was it cute, but the pygmy rabbit also stood apart from every other bunny because it was the lone rabbit to dig its own burrows in deep, loose soil.

That is until they all died.

A native to the Northwest, no one will ever hold a pygmy rabbit again after it became extinct in 2007.

And now Jacksonville holds the fate of another animal in its hands: the right whale. Only 350 right whales remain worldwide, with the majority migrating to the coastal waters off Jacksonville for the winter.

Florida has proven time after time to take a stand for endangered species: establishing the Florida Endangered Species Network, becoming a safe haven for manatees in 1978 with the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act and supporting dozens of specialized organizations like the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

And with one in four mammals at risk of extinction, Jacksonville must follow in the footsteps of its past, or the 350 members of the whale species could quickly diminish to none, according to an article in The Independent, a United Kingdom publication.

However, the problem is not with those on land, but those who share the water with the endangered whale.

The Navy named Jacksonville its top site for an underwater sonar training camp in September, which would be used to train ships, submarines, helicopters and planes in antisubmarine warfare, according to a Florida Times-Union report.

But the construction of the underwater 500-square-foot range is set to begin at the start of calving season for the whales – a span that lasts untill April 15. And officials from both Florida and Georgia told the Navy the proposed range would interfere with the crucial time for the whales.

“The waters offshore of Georgia and Northeast Florida are the only known calving ground for the species. Protection of the right whale calving habitat is critical for population recovery,” Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Noel Holcomb wrote in a response to a draft Navy report on the project.

While Navy representatives said the range would be located 50 miles from the shore – outside the critical zone – there is no specific barring on how close the whales stay to the shore.

In 2005, a whale was found 73 miles offshore, according to the Times-Union.

The Navy, whose mission is to maintain the freedom of the seas, should step up to the standards of the city and allow the endangered right whales their freedoms of the sea – their home.

Steps have already been made to protect the whales since the Navy’s announcement in September, including a speed limit law off the eastern coast. Ships entering Jacksonville ports will be kept at 10 knots (11.5 mph) during the calving season with the hope of saving the species from extinction, said Vicki Cornish, the vice president of the Ocean Conservancy group.

The fact is extinction is a real problem – not just a speed bump in the Navy’s plans.

There are more than 16,000 animals listed as endangered on The World Conservation Union’s Red List – a database that keeps track of the status of every species known to man.

Jacksonville officials, partnered with the Navy, have a chance to remove one name from the growing list – but because of restoration to the species, not because of death.

E-mail Holli Welch at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

Spinnaker intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, slurs, defamation, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and will be removed if they do not adhere to these standards. Spinnaker does not allow anonymous comments, and Spinnaker requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All UNF Spinnaker Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *